Nigeria: President signs law banning same-sex marriage and civil unions

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Nigeria’s President has signed a law which bans same-sex marriage, public displays of homosexuality and gay groups.

The internationally condemned law was signed by President Goodluck Jonathan  some time this month.

A spokesman for the President, Reuben Abatim, said that he signed the law because it fits in with attitudes of the Nigerian people.

“More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people,” said Reuben Abati, presidential spokesman.

“And I think that this law is made for a people and what [the] government has done is consistent with the preference of its environment,” he went on.

“I can confirm that the president has signed the bill into law,” Abati said. He did not give a date, but suggested that it was signed earlier in January.

Under the terms of the new law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union may be jailed for up to 14 years, and all such unions entered into abroad are made “void”.

It also bans people who register, operate or participate in gay clubs, societies or organisations, or who publicly show that they are in a same-sex relationship will be punishable with up to ten years in prison.

“Only a marriage contract between a man and a woman shall be recognised as valid in Nigeria,” the law states.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last year condemned Nigeria’s Parliament for passing the law.

Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This is a tragic day for human rights in Nigeria. It is a backward step that gravely intensifies the already existing harsh anti-gay laws in Nigeria, which were inherited from the era of British colonial rule.

“The Bill violates the equality and non-discrimination clause of the Nigerian constitution (Article 42), the Commonwealth Charter and Articles 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which Nigeria has signed and pledged to uphold.

“This law is symptomatic of the many human rights abuses that prevail in Nigeria and which all Nigerians – LGBT and straight – have a common interest in overturning.”